Supreme Court’s circular on anonymizing judgments

26 Jul 2018
As the GDPR clearly states, the supervisory authorities shall not be competent to supervise data processing operations of courts acting in their judicial capacity in order to safeguard the independence of the judiciary in the performance of its judicial tasks, including decision making.

It is, however, allowable, under GDPR, to entrust supervision of the Courts’ data processing operations to specific bodies within the judicial system of the Member State, which should, in particular ensure compliance with the rules of GDPR, enhance awareness among members of the judiciary of their obligations under the Regulation and handle complaints in relation to such data processing operations.

It should also be noted that the Courts, acting in their judicial capacity, are allowed, under GDPR, to process sensitive data (the so called ‘’special categories of personal data’’), despite the general prohibition of processing such data.

On 19th of July 2018, the Cyprus Supreme Court issued a circular by which they instructed Courts to not anonymize their judgments, which may contain all elements and personal data identifying the parties, if these are essential for the court’s ruling, taking into account the proportionality principle.
Anonymized data are outside the scope of GDPR since every identifiable information is removed and data is not considered to be linked to an identifiable natural person.

The Supreme Court’s general instruction against anonymization is accompanied by further instructions, requiring anonymization in the following circumstances:
  1. In family law cases and in all cases, concerning children (either civil or criminal) the parties’ names are anonymized.
  2. Court judgments will be published online only by reference to the parties’ surnames, without any reference to any other elements of the parties’ names or paronyms.
  3. During the pronunciation of the judgments in public sessions, there are certain personal data which may be anonymized by the Court, taking into account the proportionality principle. These data are parties’ and involved person’s addresses, biometric data, genetic data, health data, data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, sexual life or sexual orientation, phone numbers, vehicle registration numbers, national identification numbers, passport numbers, death certificates, numbers of demographics (for foreigners), bank accounts, bank cheques, stoke brokerage numbers, real estate’s registration numbers, social security numbers, insurance fund numbers, tax identification numbers, numbers absolutely associated with a person involved in the case e.g. the lawyers’ id numbers, wills, references to wills and adoption acts.
  4. Court judgments published online will be anomynized in respect of special categories of data and the names of witnesses and any other person involved in the case giving opinions such as experts, except of legal entities, Ministries, independent institutions, authorities and natural person representing institutions.
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